Autofluorescence quantification of benign and malignant choroidal nevomelanocytic tumors

JAMA Ophthalmol. 2013 Aug;131(8):1004-8. doi: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.4007.


Importance: Accurate diagnosis of choroidal melanoma is challenging and has important implications for both physicians and patients. We assessed the utility of quantification of fundus autofluorescence in the evaluation and follow-up of choroidal nevomelanocytic tumors.

Objective: To assess the utility of autofluorescence quantification in distinguishing clinically diagnosed choroidal nevi, melanoma, and indeterminate nevomelanocytic lesions.

Design, setting, and participants: A retrospective observational study from 2006 to 2012 of patients with choroidal nevomelanocytic lesions who had digital autofluorescence and color fundus imaging performed at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center.

Intervention: ImageJ software was used to output autofluorescence gray-scale values for each pixel of a 500 × 50-pixel region within each lesion and a corresponding adjacent control region.

Main outcome and measure: A single value was generated, termed the Index of Retinal Autofluorescence (IRA), to represent the total difference in gray-scale values between the 2 regions in each affected eye.

Results: Thirteen of the 14 clinically diagnosed nevi exhibited an IRA less than 150 gray-scale intensity squared (gsi2). Eight of 9 clinically diagnosed melanomas exhibited an IRA more than 150 gsi2. An IRA of 150 gsi2 distinguished nevi from melanomas with a sensitivity of 0.89 and specificity of 0.93. Fifteen of 19 patients with indeterminate nevomelanocytic lesions underwent clinical assessment and initial imaging with clinical follow-up at a median of 10 months. All 3 patients with an IRA less than 150 gsi2 showed no evidence of clinical progression and 6 of 12 lesions with an IRA more than 150 gsi2 showed clinical progression to melanoma. An IRA of 150 gsi2 identifies indeterminate lesions that progressed to melanoma with a sensitivity of 1.00 and specificity of 0.33.

Conclusions and relevance: Quantification of digital autofluorescence images can differentiate between clinically benign and malignant choroidal nevomelanocytic lesions and may be predictive for clinical progression of indeterminate lesions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Choroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Progression
  • Fluorescein Angiography*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanosis / diagnosis*
  • Nevus, Pigmented / diagnosis*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity